Like many, 23-year-old Cristian Estrada still struggles with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in his daily life.
“There are days where I struggle with not being able to hang out with my friends and distant family members,”said Estrada, a Cal State Long Beach student. “Things feel less and less personal when it comes to socializing because of all the glass walls, masks and zoom calls.”
Despite this, Estrada and other local youth have found ways to cope with issues they’ve faced due to the pandemic.
“I started working out to improve my physical appearance so that I could come out of the pandemic as a new-and-improved version of myself, but now I feel like it’s what I usually do to de-stress and ease a lot of my anxiety,” Estrada said.
Estrada spends a few hours each day trying out different workout routines in order to keep his workout routines entertaining.
Similarly, 23-year-old Ilyas Yusof turned his goal of losing weight during the pandemic into a strategy for improving his mental health.
“I’ve always had body image issues so I feel like, now that I’m working out and losing weight, my mental health is in a much better state,” Yusof said.
Yusof started a consistent workout routine at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. He began to think he could do more for people and their mental health by starting up his own fitness brand, The People’s Athlete, which officially launched in November and aims to promote inclusivity and body positivity.
Aside from selling body-positive merchandise, Yusof plans to host free group training in the future to combat the expenses that come with gym memberships and personal trainers.
“My clothing line is just the beginning,” said Yusof, “I have a personal training certification now so I hope I can encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle.”
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Lissette Melgar has found empowerment in educating herself about the virus, and how she can play her part in slowing its spread.
“In the beginning when the pandemic was new, everything seemed much more overwhelming,” Melgar said. “But now I feel like, since there’s more research and information out there now, there are more things I know I can do in my power to protect myself.”
Michaela Vasquez, a recent college graduate at UCI, used the pandemic as a way to learn some transferable skills to help herself and others during the pandemic.
“I moved back [to Long Beach] once the pandemic happened and I didn’t get to celebrate graduating and finishing school,” Vasquez said. “It feels like I went back to my high school self— just trying to save money.”
Despite her setbacks, Vasquez, who is currently working toward a degree in nursing, decided to complete a six-hour online contact tracing certificate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Contact tracing is a way to slow down the spread of a disease or virus by contacting patients and locating people they have been in close contact with and alert them of their possible exposure.
“A lot of the training is about simply knowing the facts and understanding how the virus works and spreads.” Vasquez said, “After completing this certificate, I feel a lot better knowing I can help prevent the spread of the virus.”
Writing has also been a preferred coping mechanism. 23-year-old Trisha Oquendo utilized her love for writing to create a bullet journal where she records memories of her quarantine experience.
While Oquendo picked up journaling during her last year of college as a way to stay productive, she is now using it as a way to practice mindfulness.
“I started making a memory journal where I wrote things down like what I liked about each day,” Oquendo said. “It actually helped me stay productive and become more aware of things around me in my life.”
Journaling, according to Oquendo, is a way for her to be less critical of herself and understand the importance of allowing oneself to accept change.
“I used to be really strict with myself— like if I don’t do all the things I’ve planned to do, everything else will fall apart,” Oquendo said. “But with journaling, since I can be more aware of what affects me mentally, emotionally and physically, I’m able to work through all these changes and go with the flow.”
Oquendo believes that this ability to be more mindful about her actions is a skill she will continue to use even after the pandemic ends.